Monday, July 16, 2007

Knowing When

Posted by Lisa

The first fifty pages are strong. I think they are, anyways.
I've poured my literary soul into them, not to mention those early morning hours, late night hours, and recent sessions at my local bookstore cafe.

Lynne, Hannah, and Amy, it's up to you soon, to critique my YA novel, book number two, as it's close to being finished. My characters, sigh, have lived out their story. Turns out this final product, its plot and characters, are nothing as it started. But a novel evolves, doesn't it?

But there is one caveat...I never know, for sure, when it's done.

Heidi Pitlor, a brilliant editor, and lovely writer, spoke two years ago at Grub Street's Muse & the Marketplace. When writing her novel, The Birthdays, she said it was her husband who told her it was done. She'd been editing and editing, and editing some more. When he voiced his suggestion, she agreed, he was right. Her novel was done, and off it went to her editor.

I won't rely on my husband, I don't think. But I do question, at times, at the start, at the finish of writing sessions, if I'm on the right track. Should a particular sub-plot be expanded? Should another be eliminated? Is there too much weather (cold and icy snow in my New Hampshire setting) and not enough details about physical surroundings (buildings, objects, characters' possessions)?

It's hard to know since the is no right and wrong. But there is good and bad, and very good and very bad. Sometimes, it's hard to know.


Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

I cannot wait to read it. Your characters and voice are always so beautiful. Send off as soon as you are ready!


Therese said...

Yes indeed, Lisa! Fortunately, you have a strong group of fellow writers who won't steer you wrong.

Of course, as I'm sure you've heard before, a novel is never really done, just done enough.

Larramie said...

Art is imitating life here, Lisa, at least from my perspective. It may be hard to know technically what's right or wrong for your writing, yet consider life...and you just never know.

Lisa Marnell said...

Thank you, Hannah, for your encouragement!

I couldn't agree more, Larramie and Therese. It makes such sense to think of writing (art) as imitating life. A novel just being done enough makes such sense. It's a glimpse, in a way.


Shauna Roberts said...

I've heard the advice to let a newly finished novel sit for a year (!!!) and then go back to it to revise for submission. That seems excessive, but I do think any piece of writing can benefit from being allowed to rest for a bit so that one can read it with fresh eyes. Many of your doubts may clear up if you can see your book from the perspective of someone who doesn't remember every word and plot path choice.

Lisa Marnell said...


It's funny, I did that for my first novel (being submitted to editors now), but I seem to have forgotten that advice. Thanks for the reminder!

Melissa Amateis said...

I've been mulling over the "is it done" aspect of my novel, too. I keep thinking perhaps I should go in and layer a bit more of the subplot and then reveal a bit more of something else. But then I think, no, it's got to be done at some point. I could edit it forever if I wanted to (and I don't! I'm getting quite sick of it, actually!).